As we celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it’s easy to imagine the 1860s as a historical stage dominated by northerners and southerners, fighting to make their voices heard as the debates about slavery and the great drama of emancipation unfolded in a series of costly battles and sweeping presidential proclamations. While that narrative certainly serves as a key to our nation’s history, Scott Berg urges us to broaden our geographic perspective to include the Western US to fully understand a decade that saw the nation splinter, reunify, and begin to grapple with new definitions of “freedom.”
Contrasting visions of Reagan have been especially stark in the realm of foreign affairs. Advocates often argue that he launched a new arms race that undermined the Soviet Union. Critics remember a detached leader presiding over the shameful Iran-Contra scandal. Both depictions are problematic, as they accentuate different aspects of a complex, often inscrutable man.
The Mexican Revolution knew no borders. Mexicans migrated north seeking refuge from its tumult, Tejanos, (Mexican-American Texans) assisted the fight by supplying weapons and incorporating these new immigrants into their communities. Other Tejanos and African Americans from Texas even joined the Mexican revolutionary forces.
The period from 1914-1945 has sometimes been called a “European Civil War,” but that concept has rarely been put to a systematic examination. Fortunately, Italian historian Enzo Traverso’s recent work A Ferro e Fuoco, which can be loosely translated as Put to the Sword, offers some intriguing proposals for understanding the period as a continental civil war.
In They Would Never Hurt a Fly, Slavenka Drakulic follows the stories of the Hague War criminals from the former Yugoslavia. Drakulic argues that ordinary men transformed into war criminals gradually through intensifying rhetoric containing a perfect storm of prejudice, myth, propaganda history and culture.
Reflecting on his motives for joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers at the outbreak of the First World War, Robert Graves wrote: “I thought that it might last just long enough to delay my going to Oxford in October, which I dreaded.” So began a five year pause in Graves’ life, in which the main action of his autobiography unfolds.
Harry Burgwyn was twenty-one years old when he led more than eight hundred soldiers of the 26th North Carolina Infantry into battle at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Two and a half days later, after two bloody assaults, fewer than one hundred remained fit for duty.
In Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi depicts a life where, under the severe conditions of hunger, cold, illness, and constant fear, men are transformed into beasts, and where justice and morality become insignificant in the fight for survival.
Writers of ethnically-themed novels are often pegged as simply recording their family stories. However, by the time National Book Award finalist Julie Otsuka set out to capture her mother’s stories of “camp,” dementia had already stolen her once-clear memories.